Destinations

Best Time to See Orangutans

All you need to know about the best time to see orangutans...

The fruit-loving orangutan lives mainly in lowland swamp forests and dipterocarp forests, where there is higher tree diversity and therefore a variation of times that different fruit is in abundance. With 61% of an orangutan's diet being frugivorous, the fruiting season in Borneo is a very exciting and active time in the jungle. As soon as the rains start to cease, around April and May, the hungry apes can be seen swinging from branch to branch in search of plump ripe fruit, as well as for potential mates. 

This is also a good time for Borneo holidays if you want to see the new born baby orangutans starting to emerge, as they make their way out into the creeping boscage for the first time now it’s not so wet!

Even though the trees do fruit annually, dipterocarps in particular have a longer cycle called mast fruiting which occurs every 2-10 years and results in all the trees simultaneously fruiting at the same time, regardless of a change in temperature or season. This means absolute feasting time for the orangutans and other wildlife, especially fellow frugivores such as hornbills and bearded pigs. During this time, our ‘people of the forest’ love to gorge on as much fruit as possible, figs being a particular favourite! They will literally stuff themselves with as many calories as possible, putting on a good amount of weight in preparation for a potential lack of food in the coming months. 

This is also the reason many orangutans in captivity tend to be obese, as they adopt this survival technique.

During the drier months of June to August, when the fruit is running low, orangutans tend to feed more on flowers, young leaves, bark, sap, vines and reed roots. Even snacking on spiders’ webs, fungi, honey and insects such as caterpillars, ants and termites. In fact, as an example of their adaptability and intelligence, they have been observed crafting fishing rods out of sticks in order to reach into the holes and fish out termites from their nests! Because of this lower supply of food, this is also the time the orangutans are most stationary. Instead of swinging through the trees, they are more likely to spend their days sitting or lying around in family groups in order to conserve energy. This makes it a good time to track and spot orangutans as they bask in the sun, doze in the shade or play sleepily with their young.

Once October comes around, it’s a hive of activity again as the orangutans prepare for the rainy season. Upon waking they will travel around and vigorously feed for 2-3 hrs, followed by a period of rest, before an equally hearty afternoon feast. 

Then it’s time to set up their nest in the treetops for a long restful sleep.

For further information on the varying seasons of Borneo, please visit our section on the best time to visit Borneo.

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